Guilderland survives reval school budget passes

— Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — In a year when the town reassessed properties, reflecting soaring values, the only budgets that residents get to vote on — for school and library — passed by comfortable margins.

Tuesday night, at 10:20, after a tense hour of waiting for results from the five voting districts to be tallied, the three dozen who had gathered in the Guilderland Elementary School gym applauded the results.

In a six-way race for three school board seats, the only incumbent seeking reelection, John Dornbush, was returned to office and newcomers Catherine Barber and Peter Golden were elected.
"We’re always very pleased when the budget passes," Superintendent Gregory Aidala told The Enterprise minutes after the results were announced. "We had some difficult issues with a higher budget and budget increase. And we had the reassessment...We’re always very appreciative of the support and thank the community for their involvement. We’re going to move forward now."

The $76 million school budget for next year is 6 percent higher than this year and represents a 10-percent increase in the local tax levy. The estimated tax rate for Guilderland residents is $18.55 per $1,000 of assessed valuation.

The budget passed, 2,091 to 1,788, with 54 percent voting for it and 46 percent against. It was carried in all five districts with 55 percent support in Altamont and Lynnwood, 54 percent support in Guilderland and Westmere, and 53 percent support in Pine Bush.
In recent years, Aidala said, Guilderland school budgets have passed with 65 percent voting yes and just 35 percent voting no. "We did expect it would be closer this year," he said of the vote. "We were hopeful it would pass. We never take it for granted that the budget is going to pass."
Aidala said, particularly with the town-wide property reassessment, "getting information to the public" was important. "We did a special newsletter on it," he said. "We were very up front about the impact of reassessment."

A proposition to buy buses and equipment for not more than $651,860 passed as well in all five districts. The vote was 2,303 to 1,545 with 60 percent voting for the proposition and 40 percent voting against it. About half of the cost for the purchase of the nine new buses — $305,000 — is to be returned to the district as state aid in the future. Additionally, the district will buy a new service truck with a plow.

School board race
For the first time in recent years, two school board members did not seek reelection. The board has nine at-large, unpaid members; three seats are up for election each year and go to the top three vote-getters.

Incumbent Dornbush faced five newcomers. All six candidates backed the budget.

William Brinkman and David Picker, both leaders and long-time board members, are stepping down.

As candidates and board members, along with their families, waited with administrators for election results Tuesday night, President Brinkman was confident the budget would pass.
"My hope for the budget," Brinkman told The Enterprise, "was people were going to vote for education and good schools, not against assessment. It’s going to pass," he said.

Brinkman also accurately predicted the winners in the school-board race.

Catherine Barber came in first with 2,115 votes, 22 percent.

A lawyer and musician with two children in Guilderland schools, Barber sees serving on the board as her next step in her involvement with the district.
Asked for her thoughts after the results were announced Tuesday, Barber said, "I’m happy to be on the school board."
"You’re overwhelmed," said her husband, Peter, also a lawyer, who helped with her campaign.
"I would just like to thank the voters for having so much confidence in me and I will try to live up to that and do a good job," said Barber.

During her campaign, she said she favored having an administrative team for the new fourth house at Farnsworth Middle School; she opposed teaching to the test; she opposed alternative sources of funding like pouring rights and in-school advertising; and she supported the current reading program and the anti-bullying program.

Barber came in first in Lynnwood, Pine Bush, and Westmere, and ran second in Altamont and Guilderland.

John Dornbush came in second with 1,823 votes or 19 percent.
He will now serve a third three-year term. "A major reason" for running again he had said during his campaign "is to maintain continuity."

Dornbush works as the assistant director of financial aid at the University at Albany and has a son at Guilderland High School.
"I’m glad it’s over," he said after the results were announced Tuesday. "It’s time to get back to work."

During his campaign, Dornbush supported having a rich curriculum over teaching to the test; he opposed in-school advertising and pouring rights and was skeptical about a foundation for alternative funding; and he supported the current reading curriculum.

Dornbush came in first in Altamont, second in Lynnwood and Westmere, and fourth in Guilderland and Pine Bush.

Peter Golden came in third with 1,669 votes, 18 percent.

As he waited to hear election results, with his son Benjamin, a Farnsworth Middle School student, Golden talked about how hard he had campaigned.
"Americans admire gameness," he said, recounting how residents had told him, "You’re working so hard, I’ll vote for you," even though, he said, they didn’t necessarily know what he stood for.

Golden, a self-employed writer, said during his campaign that he had been shocked at the anger he’s heard in the community over the high school taxes.
"Thirty percent of the people in Guilderland have children in the school district; 70 percent don’t. I have found, as I walk the neighborhoods, the amount of school taxes is polarizing people."

Golden campaigned on harnessing the energy of volunteers in the schools. He spoke of the importance of having students perform well on tests; and he urged zero tolerance for harassment and strong discipline.

Golden was one of three candidates endorsed by Guilderland Parents Advocate, a group of parents who favor explicit instruction standards for reading. He is the only GPA-endorsed candidate who was elected this year.

Golden came in first in Guilderland, third in Altamont, fourth in Lynnwood and Westmere, and fifth in Pine Bush.

Denise Eisele came in fourth with 1,573 votes, 17 percent.

A nurse and the mother of six children, she stressed that the quality of Guilderland teachers make the district’s education outstanding.
Endorsed by the GPA, she said it would be reasonable for the district "to do a sincere evaluation of its reading program." As a parent advocate for the Committee on Special Education, she said that reading is the biggest concern of parents of students with learning disabilities or special needs.

Eisele said she would support some alternative sources of funding, such as looking into a foundation, and she said the district should go beyond its current anti-bullying campaign to combat harassment.

Eisele came in second in Pine Bush, third in Westmere and Guilderland, fourth in Altamont, and fifth in Lynnwood.

Hy Dubowsky came in fifth with 1,319 votes, 14 percent.

The father of three children, Dubowsky has many academic degrees and works for the state’s Department of Labor as the director of economic development services.

He ran to combat organized budget opposition. During his campaign, he put forth many ideas on alternative funding. Dubowsky adamantly opposed teaching to the test.

He said he has zero tolerance for prejudice and advocated offering more activities for kids to join, so they can find what they have in common rather than focus on their differences.

Dubowsky came in third in Lynnwood and Pine Bush, fifth in Altamont and Guilderland, and sixth in Westmere.

Daniel Jacobowitz came in sixth with 942 votes, 10 percent.

The single parent of a Guilderland High School student, Jacobowitz works as an audit manger with the state’s Department of Health.
He said his job would prepare him for serving on the board. "I know how to evaluate programs with an eye for effectiveness, efficiency, and best practices," he said.

He said teachers should structure their own tests to be similar to required standardized tests. On alternative funding, he objected to pouring rights but was open to corporate sponsorship.

Endorsed by the GPA, he said that, if the district were truly meeting the needs of each child, some parents wouldn’t be unhappy.

He also said that more should be and is being done with diversity training.

Jacobowitz came in fifth in Westmere, and sixth in Altamont, Guilderland, Lynnwood, and Pine Bush.

Library results
\The $2.4 million library budget passed with 2,223 or 59 percent voting for it, and 1,525 or 41 percent voting against it.

Next year’s library budget is up about 4 percent, or about $100,000, from this year. The tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value for Guilderland residents is estimated at 81 cents.

The 11-member library board had three seats open but only two candidates — Brian Hartson and Michael Borges — submitted petitions to appear on the ballot.

The third spot went to write-in candidate Gloria Moran-Reimann.

Hartson, an incumbent, was the top vote-getter with 2,168 votes.
Hartson, who works for the state’s Department of Labor, said, during his three years on the board, he was most proud of "participation and input into the long-range planning process."
He sees a continued need for planning and said, "I look forward to that process and having input on that, making sure we preserve the library as the valuable community asset it is."

Borges came in second with 2,152 votes.

Borges is the executive director of the New York Library Association and he is also president of Guilderland’s library foundation.
"I believe in the importance of libraries and their ability to positively impact people’s lives," he said during his campaign. "I want to be sure our library has the resources and staff necessary to fulfill its mission."

Moran-Reimann received 237 write-in votes.

Long-time library trustee Barbara Fraterrigo said she talked her friend, Moran-Reimann, into launching a write-in campaign after only two candidates filed petitions.

Moran-Reimann is a recently-retired reading teacher.
"I have always loved reading," she told The Enterprise after the election results were announced. "I started taking my children before the new library was built...I’m amazed at the resources our library offers."
Another write-in candidate, Diana Rosenbaum-Weisz, received 48 votes. She has degrees in law and social work and works at Parsons Child and Family Center. Robert Ganz, president of the library board, asked her to run, said her husband, Richard Weisz, who described her as "a big reader."

Bruce Sherwin, who is stepping down after serving one five-year term on the library board, received 10 write-in votes.

Eighteen other people received one or two write-in votes.

Last year, only one eligible candidate submitted a petition to appear on the ballot for library trustee, but then three write-in candidates also ran. Incumbent Barbara Fraterrigo, who appeared on the ballot, was reelected as were write-in candidates Barbara Haught and Lawrence Malone, who has since resigned.

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